Our research team at Today’s Cottage Living has rolled up their sleeves to answer the question: How to choose a chimney sweep contractor?

By taking a few minutes to read this article you can make an informed and confident decision, knowing that your chimney is safe and in good working condition.

how to choose a chimney sweep
How to choose a professional chimney sweep

Let’s get into it!

10 Questions to ask a chimney sweep contractor before hiring.

  1. Are you certified and insured?
  2. How long have you been in business?
  3. Can you provide references or reviews from previous customers?
  4. What type of services do you offer?
  5. Are you able to provide a detailed inspection report?
  6. Are you able to provide a detailed estimate before starting the work?
  7. How do you ensure safety during the cleaning process?
  8. What is your policy on guarantees and warranties for your work?
  9. How do you handle any unexpected issues or repairs that may arise during the cleaning process?
  10. Are you able to provide advice on how to maintain my chimney in the future?

Why can you trust us?

As an associate writer for Today’s Cottage Living – and a property owner with a passion for country living (!), I’ve covered a variety of topics and written several articles on everything from DIY construction projects to chainsaws – and now; chimney sweeps! This guide combines my years of hands-on experience, together with extensive research from experts on the topic to help ensure a well-rounded perspective.

Why do you need a chimney sweep?

There are several reasons why it is important to have a professional chimney sweep clean and inspection:

  • Safety: A dirty chimney can be a fire hazard. Soot and creosote buildup in the chimney can ignite and cause a chimney fire, which can spread to the rest of the home if not properly ventilated. A professional chimney sweep can remove this buildup and reduce the risk of a chimney fire.
  • Efficiency: A clogged, or dirty chimney can impede the flow of air, making it harder for the fireplace to vent properly, and can lead to poor indoor air quality and increase heating costs. A clean chimney with proper ventilation will improve the efficiency of the fireplace and prevent chimney fires.
  • Longevity: A dirty chimney can also cause damage to the chimney structure. A chimney sweep can identify and repair any damage that may have occurred, helping to prolong the life of the chimney.
  • Prevention of wildlife: Wildlife such as birds or bats may build nests in the chimney and cause blockages. A chimney sweep can remove these nests and prevent wildlife from entering the chimney.

An annual chimney sweep will keep your chimney clean and help to ensure the safety and efficiency of your chimney, as well as prolong its lifespan and prevent blockages caused by wildlife.

How often should you hire a chimney sweep?

How often you should hire a chimney sweep depends on several factors such as how often you use your fireplace or furnace, the type of fuel you burn, and the condition of your chimney.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that chimneys, fireplaces, and vents be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Additionally, they should be cleaned, as necessary, to prevent a buildup of creosote.

If you use your fireplace or furnace frequently, you may need to have your chimney inspected and cleaned more often. If you burn wood, you will likely need to have your chimney inspected and cleaned more often than if you burn gas, as wood burning creates more creosote buildup.

chimney sweep experts

If you burn a lot of wet or resinous wood, you will likely need to have your chimney inspected and cleaned more often than if you burn seasoned, dry wood.

If you have a chimney with a history of problems or have not had your chimney inspected or cleaned in a while, it is a good idea to have it inspected and cleaned more frequently.

What is the average cost of chimney cleaning?

The average cost for chimney cleaning in the US can vary depending on several factors such as location, the size, and complexity of the chimney, and the type of service needed. Typically, it can range anywhere from $150 to $550.

For example, the average cost for chimney cleaning in New York, Florida, and California can vary depending on the factors mentioned earlier like location, size, and complexity of the chimney and type of service needed. However, on average it can cost around:

  • New York: $150 to $550
  • Florida: $100 to $300
  • California: $150 to $350

It’s important to note that these prices are estimates, and it is recommended to get a quote from a professional chimney sweep in your area for an accurate estimate.

What happens during a chimney cleaning?

During a chimney cleaning, a professional chimney sweep will inspect and clean the inside and outside of the chimney. The process typically includes the following steps:

  • Inspection: The chimney sweep will inspect the inside and outside of the chimney to check for any damage, cracks, or blockages. They will also check the chimney cap and flue for any damage or debris.
  • Sweeping: The chimney sweep will use specialized brushes and tools to remove soot, creosote, and other debris from the inside of the chimney. This will ensure that the chimney is clean and clear, allowing for proper ventilation and reducing the risk of chimney fires.
  • Cleaning: The chimney sweep will also clean the outside of the chimney, removing any debris or buildup that may have accumulated. This can include cleaning the chimney cap, flue, and the exterior of the chimney.
  • Repairs: If any damage is found during the inspection, the chimney sweep will make the necessary repairs.
  • Final Inspection: After the cleaning is complete, the chimney sweep will conduct a final inspection to ensure that the chimney is safe and functioning properly.

Before hiring a contractor, consider asking if they provide additional services such as waterproofing, relining, or animal removal should that be necessary.

Are there any signs that a chimney needs cleaning?

Yes, in fact, there are several signs that a chimney may need cleaning:

  • Soot or creosote buildup: If you can see a buildup of soot or creosote on the inside of the chimney, it may need cleaning. Creosote is a flammable substance that can build up in the chimney, increasing the risk of a chimney fire.
  • Reduced draft: If you notice a reduction in the draft of your chimney, it may be due to a blockage and requires cleaning. A blocked chimney can impede the flow of air, making it harder for the fireplace or furnace to vent properly.

Smoke problems: If you notice smoke coming back into the room when using your fireplace, it may be a sign that your chimney needs cleaning. A blocked chimney can cause smoke to back up into the home, making it difficult to use the fireplace.

Odors: If you notice strange odors coming from your chimney, it may need cleaning. These odors can be caused by creosote buildup or other debris in the chimney.

Animals: The presence of animals such as birds or bats nesting in the chimney is a sign that the chimney needs cleaning, as it can block the flue and create safety hazards.

Rust or moisture: If you notice rust or moisture in or around your chimney, it may need cleaning. Rust can be a sign of damage to the chimney, and moisture can lead to damage or mold growth.

It’s important to note that even if you don’t see any of these signs, it’s still a good idea to have your chimney inspected and cleaned at least once a year, as part of regular maintenance.

Are there ways to prevent creosote buildup?

One of the best ways to prevent creosote from building up in the first place is to burn seasoned wood. To learn more about seasoning wood, we have a great article on this exact topic.

Also, certain types of firewood tend to have less moisture and burn cleaner than others. We have a handy reference guide to help you choose the best firewood.

Why DIY homeowners should not attempt to clean their own chimneys.

Homeowners should not attempt to clean their own chimneys and should always hire a professional chimney cleaner for several reasons:

  • Safety: Cleaning a chimney can be dangerous, and it is important to have a professional with the appropriate training and equipment to do the job safely. A professional chimney cleaner will have the necessary safety gear and equipment to perform the job safely.
  • Experience and knowledge: Professional chimney cleaners have the experience and knowledge to properly inspect and clean your chimney. They can identify any potential problems or hazards and make any necessary repairs or adjustments.
  • Proper tools and equipment: Professional chimney cleaners have access to specialized tools and equipment that are needed to properly clean and maintain a chimney. These tools and equipment are not typically available to homeowners, and attempting to clean a chimney without them can be ineffective and dangerous.
  • Efficiency: Professional chimney cleaners are able to work quickly and efficiently to ensure that your chimney is cleaned thoroughly and safely. They can also provide advice on how to maintain your chimney in the future.
  • Removal of wildlife: Wildlife such as birds or bats may build nests in the chimney and cause blockages. A professional chimney cleaner can remove these nests and prevent wildlife from entering the chimney.

Let’s be honest, cleaning a chimney is a dangerous and specialized task that should only be performed by a professional. Hiring a professional chimney cleaner will ensure that your chimney is cleaned safely, efficiently, and thoroughly, and that any potential problems are identified and addressed.

Do chimney sweep logs work?

Chimney sweep logs have proven to be effective for preventing and removing early-stage creosote buildup, referred to as stage 1 creosote.

However, they don’t remove stage 2 or stage 3 creosote buildup.

Use them for maintenance to remove up to 60% of stage one creosote.

What’s the difference between a chimney sweep and an inspection?

A chimney sweep and an inspection are two different services provided by professional chimney cleaners, although they are often performed together.

A chimney sweep is a process of cleaning the inside and outside of a chimney to remove soot, creosote, and other debris that can accumulate over time. This process is necessary to ensure that the chimney is functioning properly and safely and to reduce the risk of chimney fires.

A chimney sweep typically includes the use of specialized brushes and tools and may also include cleaning the chimney cap and flue and removing debris from the exterior of the chimney.

A chimney inspection, on the other hand, is the process of evaluating the condition of a chimney and identifying any potential hazards or issues. A chimney inspector will check for things like cracks, blockages, animal nests, and other damage that may have occurred to the chimney.

They will also check for proper clearances and ensure that the chimney follows local codes. A chimney inspection will include a detailed report of the inspection and recommendations for future maintenance.

Are there different levels of chimney inspections?

Yes. There are three different levels of chimney inspections as defined by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). These levels include:

  • Level 1 Inspection: This is the most basic level of inspection and is typically done during the annual chimney cleaning. It includes a visual examination of the readily accessible portions of the chimney and flue, such as the firebox, damper, chimney crown, and the first three feet of the chimney inside the house.

The inspector will look for any obvious damage or hazards, such as cracks, blockages, or missing or loose bricks.

  • Level 2 Inspection: This is a more in-depth inspection and is typically done when a change has occurred in the system, such as a change in fuel type or a change in the chimney’s use.

Level 2 inspections include everything in a Level 1 inspection and in addition, an inspector will inspect the interior of the chimney and flue to check the chimney’s structure and condition.

  • Level 3 Inspection: This is the most comprehensive level of inspection and is typically done when there is a suspected problem with the chimney or flue. It includes everything in a Level 2 inspection and in addition, the inspector will remove portions of the chimney or flue, such as the chimney crown, chimney cap, or flue tiles, to gain access to hidden or inaccessible areas of the chimney.

This level of inspection is typically required in a real estate transaction when the inspector is required to determine the condition of the chimney and identify any defects or hazards that would need to be addressed before the sale.

It’s important to note that the level of inspection required will depend on the circumstances of the chimney and its usage. A professional chimney inspector will be able to recommend the appropriate level of inspection for your chimney and provide a detailed report with recommendations for future maintenance.

YouTube: Chimney sweep inspections and cleaning


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Greg Jones

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